My name is James (J.T.) Erbaugh, and I am an Applied Social Scientist in the Global Science Unit at the Nature Conservancy, as well as an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College. I specialize in environmental governance and policy.
I am motivated by a passion for the sustainable management of natural resources and deep respect for communities whose livelihood strategies depend on natural resource management. As a researcher or teacher, I have spent over six years living in rural, forest-dependent communities on the Navajo Nation (Navajo, NM), Sumatra (Sungai Penuh, Jambi), and Java (Pati, Central Java). This time shapes how I understand, research, and teach about environmental governance and policy.
My research investigates how groups make rules for the management of natural resources and how those rules effect environmental, social, and economic change. I am particularly interested in the connection between global environmental change and local action. I study this by focusing on community-based resource management, the role of global politics in shaping local environment and development outcomes, and evaluating the impacts of environmental policies. My research draws from institutional economics, political ecology, and causal inference. I am trained in GIS, spatial analysis, survey methodology, interview research, and policy content analysis.
Within environmental governance and policy, I contribute to three specific content areas. First, I use causal inference methods to understand trade-offs in centralized and decentralized resource management. I am particularly interested in the trend of administrative proliferation and its impact on conservation and human wellbeing. Second, I use spatial data and political theory to consider the justice implications of global forest restoration for indigenous people and local communities. I argue that a rights-based approach to restoration will be necessary to promote the just mitigation of climate change. And third, I analyze climate vulnerabilities for local populations to provide information about climate-smart, community-driven development. Assessing the exposure, sensitivity, and capacity to adapt to a changing climate requires localized data. Advances in the availability of spatial, census, and survey data have made the analysis of local climate vulnerability and adaptation options possible.
My research would not be possible without funding. I have received financial support from the National Science Foundation, the World Bank, the IUCN, the Borlaug Fellowship in International Food Security, the Fulbright Program, the Institute for Social Research, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Dow Sustainability Fellowship, the Department of Defense Critical Language Scholarship, the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School, the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, and the Dartmouth College Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies.
Although many generous people, communities, and organizations have contributed their time, expertise, and resources to make my research possible, the opinions expressed on this website are my responsibility alone. If you would like to contact me, please send an email to:
james(dot)erbaugh(at)tnc.org or james(dot)t(dot)erbaugh(at)dartmouth(dot)edu.